Chris Hunter is co-founder of Phusion Projects, LLC, a Chicago-based alcoholic beverage company that sells its products (including Four Loko and Moskato Life) nationwide. He shares the three lessons that made it possible.
I've always had the entrepreneurial spirit, and it has taken me in all kinds of crazy directions, from selling bulk candy on my grade school bus to starting a magazine in college. Not all of my previous ventures were successful, but when I was 26 years old, my partners and I started Phusion Projects LLC, which has since grown to become the sixth-largest U.S.-owned beer company.
Here are the biggest lessons I still remind myself of just about every day:
1. Develop a thick skin.
Let's face it: Entrepreneurship isn't for the meek. When you start out, you are an unknown underdog truly "living on a dream." This isn't an easy place to be. You are going to hear "no" from customers. You are going to face issues with suppliers, partners and co-workers. And you are very likely to be working on a shoestring budget.
This is the perfect time to develop a thick skin. As the saying goes, "it's not personal, it's business."
Don't think for a minute that these issues go away as your business grows, either. If anything, they grow with it. With that being said, the earlier you can learn not to take things personally, the better.
2. Be adept at adapting.
Building a company, especially when in startup mode, takes a lot of energy, but it also provides more than a few adrenaline rushes. When you close your first deal or outsell your competition for the first time, it gives you a buzz.
As a result, we easily get caught up in what I call the Entrepreneur's Curse. You constantly look for the next new and exciting project to work on, company to start, or business to invest in. As your growing team starts taking things off your plate, it can seem like one company just isn't enough; things aren't moving fast enough and there isn't enough for you to do.
But this is part of the natural evolution of a company. As it moves from a startup to an established business, things change--and that includes the pace of business, along with your role in it. If you want to keep your job, you must be able to transition from being a startup entrepreneur to a corporate entrepreneur. Learn how to over communicate, delegate, and keep everyone informed. Otherwise, you'll cause frustration for yourself and your team.
3. Keep your eye on the prize.
Like many entrepreneurs, I've learned that I move really fast. I resolve things in my head quickly and don't like to get caught up in the details. But as they say, the devil really is in the details. An idea or concept can be game-changing, but if it is not executed on well, it is worthless. To have proper execution, there must be a clear plan of action. To create a clear plan of action, there must be focus.
As a result, what I have started to do is take on fewer projects at a time and try to stay very close to them, at least until they are self-sustaining. For me, that means being involved in things that I normally wouldn't, right down to the smallest details. But that first-hand exposure to a project can give you the insight you'll need to provide all the tools necessary to ensure continued high-level execution, long after you've moved on to the next exciting challenge.